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Secure your computer

Update your operating system

No operating system is perfect, and all of them, if not fully patched, are at risk of being exploited by hackers and viruses. On the other hand, a fully patched operating system can be the best first line of defense. An unpatched machine on the network is harmful not only to its user but to other computers on the network. For that reason, we require all machines on the network to have the latest patches as outlined in our Acceptable Use Policy.

For Windows, automatic updates are located in your Control Panel or PC Settings menu.

For Mac OS X, updates are available through Apple's "Software Update" tool via the Apple Menu.

We highly recommend that you set your computer to download and install critical updates automatically.

For Windows 10

  1. Hit the windows key on your keyboard and search for "Check for Updates".
  2. Click "Advanced Options".
  3. Select Automatic (recommended) in the drop down menu and close the window.
  4. If you don't want to receive major build upgrades, select "Defer upgrades"

For Mac OS X

  1. Open the App store
  2. Select "Updates"
  3. Select "Install all"

Update your computer software

Keeping programs on your computer up-to-date is just as important as updating your operating system. Most malware use security vulnerabilities in your internet browser or internet plug-ins to infect your machine.

Web browser security

New web exploits are found all of the time. Keeping your web browser up to date is paramount in ensuring that your system is secure.

Plugin Security

The most important action you take to keep your computer secure when browsing the web is to make sure your plugins stay up-to-date, including:

  • Adobe Flash
  • Adobe Acrobat
  • Quicktime
  • Java

Many computers that become compromised with a virus are due to security vulnerabilities within these programs. Adobe has released security advisories for Flash in the past, stating that vulnerabilities exist that cause the infected computer to crash and allow an attacker to take control of the computer. Java can enhance the way you experience the web, but also comes with many security vulnerabilities that allow malicious code to run on your computer, infecting it in the process.

We recommend using HTML5 video players whenever possible instead of flash, and only enabling Java when required to view a web applet.

Set passphrases on all your accounts

To prevent unauthorized access to your computer (hackers, malware, viruses), strong authentication must be used for all access. We recommend using a passphrase (a collection of words) instead of a password. A phrase is significantly more secure and is often easier to remember. Here are some examples.

"You can do the Boogie 2!"
"Call dad re: the party!"
"Pickles make me want to HURL."

Use the following guidelines to create your passphrase:

  1. Do not use a famous quote or a well-known line from a song.
  2. Make sure you can remember it.
  3. Use characters from at least three of the following four groups: lower case letters, upper case letters, numbers, non-alphanumeric characters (!$@#,etc).

Don't share access to your computer

Your computer may allow other users to access files and folders on your computer and devices connected to your computer through file sharing. This ability to share files can be used to infect your computer with a virus or compromise your identiy.

Use a firewall

A firewall serves as another line of defense between your computer and all the dangers waiting for you on the internet. It is kind of like the moat around your castle - you get to decide what comes in and what goes out. Windows Vista and Mac OS X both have built in firewalls. To enable your builtin firewall, follow these easy steps.

Windows 10

  1. Search for "Windows firewall"
  2. On the left side bar click "Turn Windows Firewall on or off"
  3. Choose the "On (recommended)" option.
  4. Click "Ok" to apply the settings to your computer

With Windows Firewall enabled, if you run internet connected software for the first time you may be asked to "Block" or "Unblock" the program from accessing the internet. In general, you should only allow programs to access the internet that you are familiar with. If you are not sure, block the software and check the company's website.

An exception list can be created from the Windows Firewall control panel. Read more about Windows Firewall.

Mac OS X

  1. Go to Apple, then System Preferences, click on Security & Privacy, and then click the Firewall tab.
  2. Click the Start button to turn on your firewall.

Keep an updated anti-virus program on your computer

An updated anti-virus program will alert you when a potential threatening file is being downloaded onto your computer.

Virus Scanners need to be updated constantly because new viruses are always emerging. Most A/V clients will update automatically when connected to the internet. Check your client settings to make sure this is performed on a daily basis. Also check your your subscription status for the expiration date. An expired subscription will not allow the client to receive regular virus signature updates. Without the latest virus signatures your A/V client will be ineffective.

Please keep in mind that when downloading any type of software, download from a credible source. For example, if you choose to download an anti virus software, download from the company's website. Downloading software from a non-credible source may potentially infect your computer with viruses and may make your computer vulnerable to security threats.

Recommended Antivirus Software and Virus Information

Other ways to protect your computer

Back Up Your Data

ResNet highly recommends getting an external hard drive to back up your data daily. Free software, such as Apple's Time Machine and CrashPlan can create easy daily backups of your files.

Alternately, cloud backup services are available for reasonable prices, usually around $5-$10 per month.